The Connecticut Supreme Court late yesterday announced a sweeping change to its policy on hearing cases. Beginning next week, the Court will hear arguments and decide cases on an "en banc" basis — meaning that all seven members of the court (absent a disqualification or recusal) will now decide the cases.
Previously, civil cases, such as employment law cases, were decided by a five member panel. This led to strange (albeit rare) instances where the five member panel may have ruled upon a case 3-2, but upon an "en banc" review, a 4-3 panel reversed it.
For employers that are dealing with an appeal, the new system removes the arbitrary nature of who listens to such cases and reduces the possibility of an outcome that could get reversed by a full panel later on. It should also help minimize costs because it removes an incentive of a party to ask for reargument "en banc" anytime there is a split decision. There are also several employment law cases on the horizon and it will be beneficial to have the entire court chime in on such cases.
The Court’s notice has a few more details below:
Beginning with its September 2009 term, the Connecticut Supreme Court has voted to change its policy regarding how it hears cases. Most cases have been heard by panels of five. The Court now will sit en banc – in panels of seven – in all cases in which there are no disqualifications. When one justice has recused him or herself from hearing a matter, the Court will sit as a panel of six. If there are two disqualifications, the Court will sit as a panel of five. In all death penalty cases, the Court will continue its policy of sitting en banc. In those death penalty cases when an en banc panel cannot be constituted from members of the Supreme Court, judges of the Appellate Court will be requested to sit as determined on a rotational basis.
The new policy recognizes that the public has an interest in having every justice hear and decide every case, whenever possible. This will hopefully strengthen the precedental value of each opinion. In addition, the new policy eliminates any need to determine which justices sit on which cases, thus eliminating the random selection of judges for each panel.
This policy is subject to review by the Court.